Bronchiolitis: Causes, Who is at Risk, Symptoms, Treatment, Home Remedies, Prevention
Bronchiolitis- This is a pathological condition of lungs found in children in which the bronchioles become congested almost always due to a viral infection. This condition is more rampant in the winter months. It may start as a common cold, but quickly progresses to wheezing, coughing etc.
What Is Bronchiolitis?
As stated, Bronchiolitis is a pathological condition of the lungs found in children and infants in which the bronchioles get congested due to a viral infection. This condition is pretty frequent in the winters. Bronchiolitis begins with symptoms quite similar to that of a common cold, but gradually progresses to coughing, wheezing, and at times breathing difficulties. These symptoms may take a few weeks or even up to a month to subside. Majority of children recover with supportive care and do not require an inpatient setting, but there are rare cases of children requiring hospitalizations for treatment of Bronchiolitis.
Causes of Bronchiolitis
Bronchiolitis as stated is almost always caused by a viral attack which infects the bronchioles. The infection causes the bronchioles to inflame and swell up resulting in gradual buildup of mucous in the airways making it difficult for air to flow freely in and out of lungs. The most common virus responsible for causing Bronchiolitis is the RSV or Respiratory Syncytial Virus. This is a very common virus rampant during the winter season. Bronchiolitis can be caused also by other viruses such as the one which cause common cold or flu.
Bronchiolitis is contagious; therefore, if a child contracts in infection then there is a high probability that the infection will spread to other children with couching, sneezing etc.
Who All Are At Risk For Developing Bronchiolitis
Children Who Are At Greater Risk For Developing Bronchiolitis Are:
- Children who have never been breast-fed
- Premature children
- Children with an underlying heart or lung condition
- Children with compromised immune system
- Children who are exposed to smoking
- Children living in crowded environments
Symptoms Of Bronchiolitis
Some Of The Symptoms Of Bronchiolitis Are Quite Similar To That Of A Common Cold And Are As Follows:
- Runny nose
- Low grade fever
- Difficulty breathing
- Otitis media may also be present in some children
Diagnosis of Bronchiolitis
To confirm the diagnosis of Bronchiolitis, the treating physician will first assess whether the child is at risk for developing this condition. After assessing this, the physician may order the following tests:
- Chest X-ray: This may be done to rule out other conditions like pneumonia
- Mucous Test: This may be done to identify a viral infection
- Blood Tests: This test will show whether the child is suffering from an infection or not.
Treatment For Bronchiolitis
Majority of children with Bronchiolitis do not require inpatient setting for treatment and can be cared for at home itself. The symptoms tend to resolve within a period of a few weeks. Some things that need to be made sure are that the child is fed with adequate liquids. One needs to closely monitor the breathing pattern of the child to look for any changes. There are medications that can be used for opening up the airways like bronchodilators even though they are not found to be that helpful. Antibiotics used for bacterial infection will not be effective in Bronchiolitis as this is basically a viral infection. Corticosteroid medications are not recommended for this condition as they are not found to be effective.
Home Remedies For Bronchiolitis
Some Home Remedies Suggested For Cutting Down Development Of Bronchiolitis Are:
- Use of Humidified Air: Humidified air helps in easing out congestion and coughing episodes.
- The child needs to be kept upright, so that breathing is easier for the child.
- The child needs to be given adequate amounts of clear fluids so as to prevent dehydration
- Saline drops can be tried to ease out congestion.
- Pain medications like Tylenol etc. can be given for relief of pain and inflammation. Medications should not be given to a child who is under three months of age. Aspirin should never be given.
- A smoke-free environment is essential as smoking aggravates the symptoms.
Prevention of Bronchiolitis
- Avoid the child's contact with sick people, especially for newborn babies who can catch infection very quickly.
- A flu shot is extremely important for prevention.
- The house needs to be absolutely clean and dust free, especially the bathroom and kitchen. Extra precaution is required if another member of the family is down with cold.
- Utensils such as glasses or spoons should not be shared and need to be sterilized properly.
- Frequently wash the hands.
- Breast feeding for infants is very important as it improves the baby's immunity and capability to fight infections.